COVID-19 data tracker for Florida schools incomplete

Investigations

TAMPA (WFLA) – 8 On Your Side has been continuously pressing the state to reveal coronavirus cases in our schools. More than six weeks after Tampa Bay area kids started returning to class, the Florida Department of Health released the report.

The data shows the number of coronavirus cases in primary and secondary schools across the state. It can be found in the “school report” section on the department’s COVID-19 response page.

The report names school, city and county along with the total current cases among students, teachers and staff.

Gov. Ron DeSantis told 8 On Your Side in late August that he supported releasing COVID-19 school data.

“Governor, will you release information about the number of students and staff with COVID at specific schools, and how fast can we get this data?” asked investigative reporter Mahsa Saeidi.

“So, the surgeon general addressed that this morning, so that was his thing,” said Gov. DeSantis. “What I’ve said is, put out as much information as we have.”

Fast forward one month – on Sept. 29 – we still had no school COVID-19 data from the state. At a news conference in Clearwater, reporters asked Gov. DeSantis about the delay.

“I don’t know that Florida has a report, I’ve told them to work on it,” he said.

Just a few hours later, a 13-page state report quietly popped on DOH’s website with incomplete data. As of Wednesday, it only includes cases starting Sept. 6.

In Manatee County, for example, school started weeks earlier on August 17.

Perhaps due to this limited date range, the state’s data doesn’t always add up exactly with cases reported at some institutions.

8 On Your Side reached out to the Department of Health Wednesday afternoon for more information.

Regardless, Gov. DeSantis said the science has been clear for weeks: there’s a lack of transmission between students, teachers and peers.

“I would like to get it out. You know why? Because the story is a good story to tell,” said Gov. DeSantis.

This report is a step in the right direction. All along, public health experts have said we need data that is reported in a uniform way.

8 On Your Side will continue to monitor cases inside schools throughout the Tampa Bay area.

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